Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Long Double Feature

Ace's plan was a double feature of FUN IN ACAPULCO and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. It didn't quite work out. A few weeks ago we watched FUN IN ACAPULCO but we got started late, and only last night did we get around to BRING ME THE HEAD. Anyway, that's pretty quick compared to our George Lazenby Film Festival. The protagonist of each movie in our double feature is an entertainer in a Mexican bar. In the latter, Warren Oates's lover strums her guitar and sings to him as they race down the dusty road in a red car. In the former, Elvis Presley sings to a "lady bullfighter" about how there's "No Room to Rumba" in her red sports car, if you know what I mean, which brings up an interesting point. Angela said - and I agreed - that Elvis made the wrong choice vis-à-vis the lady bullfighter, who, as Angela pointed out, was a "bad-a**" and also sexually progressive, with a thriving career to boot, whereas Elvis went for the "good girl," who was the daughter of the hotel chef - the chef was a disgraced count or baron or something... never mind... and Ace disagreed with us and kept saying of the chef's daughter, "But she's Ursula Andress! She's Ursula Andress!" But she's not "Ursula Andress" in the movie! She's the chef's daughter, and very vaguely defined otherwise. As you know, I like just about everything, but I was afraid we were going to see some stock footage of bullfighting in the movie because of the "lady bullfighter" and I just don't like any movie with bullfighting in it (see also). But there was no bullfighting, though in a funny touch, Elvis seemed to work at a nightclub where he was only allowed to sing about bulls. He sang a song about bulls and then the next time he sang at the club he sang a different song about bulls! Ha ha ha! I imagined him going to the manager, like, "I'd like to sing about birds tonight," and the manager is like, "No! Only bulls! My customers only like songs about bulls!" At the beginning of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, when the guy tells everybody to bring him the head of Alfredo Garcia and they all jump in their cars and airplanes and whatnot and zoom away to look for the head of Alfredo Garcia, Dr. Theresa said, "It's like IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD." An apt analogy!

Monday, December 29, 2014


Hey! I was researching my cigarette lighter book when I came across an old newspaper article about "44 unset diamonds concealed in a cigar lighter." I don't think I'll use it - my book is about cigarette lighters, not cigar lighters! - but there it is, just for you. The article bore the irresistible headline "HIDE JEWELS IN SANDWICHES" and began, "Sandwiches spread with gold pieces or diamonds and eggs spiced with unset gems have been successfully used by international smugglers." It also contained this choice sentence: "While the officials were vainly searching his baggage, they were struck by the fact that he was ostentatiously but rather nervously devoting himself to a huge sandwich."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holiday Activities

I'm afraid I haven't been keeping you up-to-date on our holiday activities. We looked around and couldn't find the apple peeler but anyway we finally went out and got a new apple peeler.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

French Christmas Owl Hooha

I know you don't care that every book has an owl in it, nor with any certainty can I say that I care. But in this book I just finished reading there's a flashback where the writer-director Tommy Wiseau is living in Paris under the name "Pierre": "Pierre is apparently written up in a French newspaper by some journalist whose eye he catches. In the article about his struggling, odd, nocturnal life, Pierre will be called the Night Owl." Okay, get out of here, we're done.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Used to Know That Guy

I was killing some time in Square Books the other day. I picked up a book called THE DISASTER ARTIST, co-written by my friend Tom Bissell. It's about a famously crazy movie called THE ROOM, which I've never seen. So I didn't think I would "get" the book. But I sat there and read the first chapter or so while a woman stood nearby in the poetry section having a loud, angry conversation on her cell phone about her no-good cousin. If Richard had been around he would have snatched that cell phone right out of her hand! Or something subtler. And the woman knew it! She yelled into her phone, "I'M VIOLATING ONE OF THIS STORE'S CARDINAL RULES!" But anyway, I was irritated by her because I was getting caught up in the story and she was making it hard to concentrate. So anyway, I bought the book! It turns out to be incredibly enjoyable even if you're like me and know almost nothing about THE ROOM. And today I was leafing through the glossy part in the middle with all the photos and I RECOGNIZED SOMEONE FROM MY OWN PAST. He was D.P. on THE ROOM - and still holds that title in the section I am reading - though it seems to have been a nightmarish experience and he doesn't appear to be credited in the final film. I suppose I'll find out why as I keep reading. Anyway, his name is Raphael, and we affectionately called him Raphy, and remember when Ward McCarthy and I went to Las Vegas to cover an Elvis impersonator convention? He shot all that stuff! He was quiet and wry and pleasant and did a good job. We tried to work with him as much as possible. Well, it was a nice surprise seeing his picture.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


10. I heard a LIFE AFFIRMING story on NPR about a kid who POOPED ON A FRANKENSTEIN! 9. I watched the INCREDIBLE movie ESCAPE PLAN! 8. I had an AWESOME gun pointed in my face! 7. Hips were thrust lasciviously at me by an ASTONISHINGLY ENORMOUS inflatable Batman! 6. I read part of a book where Sterling Hayden gets WILDLY ENRAGED when someone describes the hull of his boat incorrectly! 5. I LEANED CASUALLY on the Wienermobile! 4. I read on wikipedia about owls spitting out mouse bones in CRAZY COOL pellet form! 3. I watched a guy PAINSTAKINGLY retype THE SOUND AND THE FURY! 2. I saw part of the movie starring Joey from FRIENDS and a guy in a chimp suit! 1. I read about a SEXY GHOST!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Wrong Mistakes

Finished that Bob Hope bio (which had an owl in it, like every book: Bob Hope described as a "night owl") and now I've moved on to a Thelonious Monk bio written by Robin D.G. Kelley, which I picked up in hardcover at Square Books back in 2009, and it's just been patiently sitting there on the shelf ever since. It starts out with something pretty surprising: the subject of the biography coming to the author in a dream! This was 30 years before the writing of the book, when the author was an aspiring pianist: "he came to me in a dream. Decked out in divine alligator shoes, a dark green silk suit, yellow tie, bamboo sunglasses, and a cold straw hat, he snuck up behind me as I sat hunched over my stepfather's Steinway upright, looked over my shoulder, and simply mumbled, 'You're making the wrong mistakes.'" I also read this about Monk: "One of his favorite pranks was to stare intensely at a spot on the ceiling or in the sky... Invariably, several people would look up with him." That reminds me of the gag Saint Thomas More used to pull!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peripatetic Chimp Continues to Fascinate McNeil

As far back as May of 2007, McNeil has been fascinated with the story of a certain castaway chimp. He even contacted an Australian reporter about it! McNeil is still pondering the implications. He has tracked down more information and provides a "link" to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center, which he swears will bring Jerry Lewis into the story of our wandering chimpanzee. And so it does: "On the dark night of December 21st 1959, Robert sneaked into the zoo and stole back Moko. It was not as if Robert wanted to steal him because he was obviously very attached and so he left in the animal’s place a cheque for $1,000 and an IOU for $2,000... The missing animal naturally made headlines and the story even appeared in Life Magazine... During this missing period Mr. Moke appeared in the Jerry Lewis movie ‘The Bell Boy’ [sic] which must have earned Robert a bit of money." As McNeil notes in his email, a lot of the story is sad - the harmless typos peppering the account add to the heartbreak somehow - and I don't like to "link" you to sad stuff but here is the "link" anyway, you're a grown person.

I Leaned on the Wienermobile

Ace Atkins and I took one of our famous trips to Memphis yesterday. I'll spare you the details. EXCEPT! We saw the Oscar Mayer wienermobile in a parking lot so I went and leaned on it and Ace took a picture.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Half a Panda Act

Got kind of stuck halfway through writing a SpongeBob script so I jumped in the car and went to see the new Chris Rock movie, which I am happy to report is a "sad clown" movie in the old tradition, where the sad clown learns that the most important gift he can give is the gift of laughter. Rock's character - the sad clown in question - even talks about Chaplin. And at what is arguably the climax of the movie (spoiler alert!), DMX appears and sings the Chaplin composition "Smile." So I don't think I am crazy. Now let us move on to the dwindling pages of this Bob Hope biography I am reading. Several things about Bob's 1979 trip to China tickle me in just the right way. Bob brought Peaches and Herb with him because "Hope thought their hit song 'Reunited' was a good theme for the trip." I just like to think of Bob Hope listening to a Peaches and Herb 45 and saying something like, "You know, these kids are really onto something!" I find it amusing that Dolores Hope carried "packets of Cup-a-Soup in her luggage" in case she didn't like the food in China! I find it adorable that Bob took a tai-chi class and spoke to Chinese film students about MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE. And I enjoy this sentence very much: "The owner of a trained panda complained that he wasn't getting paid enough and said he would allow the show to use only half of the panda's act."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cancel My Reservation

Now we're getting into the CANCEL MY RESERVATION era in this Bob Hope biography. And you know what that means: you're not qualified to read my "blog" "posts" about it anymore. I have to email this stuff directly to McNeil. It's too sad and obscure for you to grasp. I guess I'll mention that Bob Hope's son just lost all his money (the son's money, I mean; don't worry about Bob Hope's money!) investing in a movie called WHO FEARS THE DEVIL?, "based on a series of fanciful folktales... about an Appalachian balladeer who is transported back in time." But the weirdest part is that "Arlo Guthrie was originally cast in the lead but he didn't work out and had to be replaced by an unknown." I find it inexpressibly touching to think of Bob Hope's broke son sitting around thinking, "If only Arlo Guthrie were in this movie! Everything would be different." See, I knew you wouldn't understand. Say, did you know that one of the short stories in my supposedly forthcoming collection (2016!) is called "Cancel My Reservation"? No, why would you? And the book originally had an epigraph taken from the closing theme to CANCEL MY RESERVATION, a kind of ersatz Osmond Brothers number. But I replaced it. And for a while I considered using part of a Dwight Garner review for the epigraph: "Peter has left behind a wife, Bea, with whom he runs a small parish in an English village, and their cat, Joshua, about whom we learn way too much... This reader did not mourn Joshua’s freakish death." But then I was afraid that readers might think I was endorsing Mr. Garner's gross pronouncement rather than marveling at its chilling soullessness. (Hey, I had drinks with Dwight Garner at City Grocery Bar and he seems like an okay guy. I even made him a mix tape! Ha ha, what a suck-up.) So then I had to couch that Garner epigraph in some other epigraphs to give it context, like Mark Twain saying something good about cats, and then Garrison Keillor saying something dumb about Mark Twain in the New York Times Book Review, but it got too complicated, it spiraled out of control, it started to get like MOBY-DICK! So never mind. Forget I said anything. Oh, Bob and Shirley made up and liked each other despite their political differences, you'll be glad to know.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Shirley MacLaine Yells at the TV

Well, Bob Hope's hawkish attitude toward Vietnam is spicing up this bio a little. People are getting sick and tired of Bob Hope! Shirley MacLaine yells "Oh, shut up, Bob Hope!" at the TV screen. That's an actual event that is actually recounted in this biography. A critic writes that Bob "seems to be living a cruel fantasy that he's Dean Martin." Ouch! Speaking of Dean Martin, Bob takes some of Dean's dancers - "The Golddiggers" - to the White House to do a little performance. At dinner, one of the Golddiggers unfurls a napkin that says "STOP THE WAR." A kerfuffle ensues.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Give Me Some Undercurrents

Like I said, this Bob Hope bio really bogs down after World War II. Like, you might get a page or two of Bob grumbling about how much his fax machine cost. But I did find out that on one trip to Vietnam he took along "nearly a ton of thirty-by-forty-inch poster board" for cue cards. So that seemed like a lot of poster board. That was something to think about. And when Tony Coelho got kicked out of seminary for having epilepsy (!) and his parents thought he was possessed by the devil (!!) Bob and family took him in for several months and Bob advised him to go into politics (he became a six-term Democratic state congressman). And Bob sent Tony Coelho to the bank and told him to take as much money out of Bob's account as he needed to start a new life. Also, the playwright John Guare lived with Bob Hope and his family for ten months. These facts briefly struck me as interesting but I think it is wearing off. "It was not a house full of undercurrents," Guare says. "It was a genuinely pleasant house." Zzzzzz.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bridge Rib

It seems that I have never written about the bridge column in the New York Times, at least not here, though I'm pretty sure it shows up in one of the short stories in my collection that is supposedly coming out in 2016. I can't remember whether or not I edited it out. I think about it a lot, the bridge column. Like, "Huh." That is one of my thoughts. I don't know anything about bridge, not the rules or anything. In today's bridge column we read about a 6 foot 6 dude who fell down on his way into the bridge tournament and broke his rib but he kept playing bridge with a broken rib.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

Welcome once again to All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up. THIS JUST IN! Bobby Darin threw a big party for Richard Pryor and Groucho Marx was there! I'm getting this out of the new Richard Pryor biography. And Groucho had just seen Richard Pryor on TV with Pryor's hero Jerry Lewis. And Groucho asked Richard Pryor, "Do you want a career you can be proud of? Or do you want to end up a spitting wad like Jerry Lewis?" Author Scott Saul captures Pryor's - and my! - incredulity: "'Huh?' Richard stammered. His idol a spitting wad?" I chalk up part of it to the age thing. Here's this upstart Jerry Lewis influencing a young comedian (Pryor called Jerry "the god of comedy" on the show) and here's Groucho (born 1890) sitting around at a party at Bobby Darin's house. He probably arrived early and really wanted to be home in bed. I don't know. I feel you, Groucho! Not the Jerry part, though. And anyway that's not nice party conversation, Groucho. This seems to be a good spot to mention that in the Bob Hope book we discover that Bob loved Lenny Bruce and went to see him perform numerous times in nightclubs. There's a little anecdote about Bob Hope and Lenny Bruce hanging out in a Florida parking lot. Here's something else: "One of the men who kidnapped Frank Sinatra Jr. in 1963 told an FBI agent that the gang had first considered snatching Hope's oldest son, Tony, but opted for young Sinatra instead because 'Bob Hope is such a good American and had done so much in entertaining troops.'" You know, I was thinking about the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping yesterday! I almost tweeted something to Jimmy about it but I found out I had all the facts wrong, rendering my tweet useless. You know, Kent Osborne and I once wrote a screenplay with a part for Frank Sinatra Jr. as Himself. There was a subplot about a young woman who loves XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, that's how long ago we wrote this screenplay. Not that you can't love XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS! I'm just saying it was still on the air when we wrote the screenplay. XENA star Lucy Lawless just played an ant on ADVENTURE TIME. True story. I believe our screenplay took for granted the audience's intimate knowledge of the film ROUNDERS as well. You know, this photo has nobody in it I've talked about here but it kept coming up while I was looking for an image to use, and I'm just going to go for it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Until Dusk

Since childhood I have "known" two things about the astronomer Tycho Brahe: that he had a golden nose and that he died from holding in his pee at a royal banquet instead of excusing himself to go to the bathroom. Like, he just popped or something. Like, his bladder exploded from politeness. These "facts" came out of my mouth at yesterday's ADVENTURE TIME meeting and I had to check them for accuracy, if you consider looking at wikipedia "checking for accuracy." I guess they dug him up twice to check out what his nose was made of, and finally decided it was brass, maybe? And there is something to the "holding his pee" story after all. He didn't pop, of course. He died some days later, though. Which prompted Adam Muto to ask, "Why didn't he just pee on himself?" I was offended! But Adam explained that at Versailles, for example, the nobility would just sit around peeing on themselves. I could hardly believe it! So I lazily checked around today and found a "blog" about Versailles which indeed includes a "post" entitled "The Lack of Toilets." Here is a brief passage: "The ruthlessly honest Duc de Saint-Simon once said of the Princesse d'Harcourt that she would often urinate while walking, making her hated by the many servants who had to clean up after her. It was even said that Louis XIV himself would go to the toilet while driving a carriage! When at Fontainebleau the courtiers would normally hold their water until dusk at which time they would rush to the lawns and simply do their business then and there." Adam asked me what happened to Tycho Brahe's nose and I rashly attributed his condition to syphilis. I'm sorry, Tycho Brahe! Further research indicated that he lost it in a sword fight with his cousin. They were arguing over a mathematical formula! I was going to illustrate this with a photo from the Versailles "blog" captioned "The Queen's Toilet," but I will instead include this photo from wikipedia because I like the caption: "An artificial nose of the kind Tycho wore. This particular specimen did not belong to Tycho."

Monday, December 08, 2014

Sleeping Habits of Bob

I won't lie to you, this Bob Hope bio is kind of running together now. Everything's a blur. Lots of numbers. Like, how many acres of land Bob bought (10,000). I don't know. On the plus side, Jim Dees sent me this photo of Bob Hope here in town, on the University of Mississippi campus in 1973, with the homecoming queen. Dees said he went to see Hope perform and that an army of cue card men, real pros, zoomed and zipped all around him. Wherever Bob turned his head, there was a cue card! Dees said Bob made a lot of "local" jokes... about the neighboring community of Water Valley, for example. As I knew from the book, Bob always sent "advance men" to town ahead of him so he could personalize his act for a hometown crowd. I did notice that Bob's method for putting himself to sleep was similar to the one Nabokov wrote about, which I also remembered from the memoirs of monk and mystic Thomas Merton. Rosemary Clooney proclaimed Bob's sleeping method to be "very yoga-like." And when I was contemplating "blogging" about that, I thought, "What is wrong with you, Pendarvis?" Yet here we are. Oh, Bob said that he and Doris Day had an affair. And I thought Megan Abbott would like the detail that "publicist Frank Lieberman once saw Hope and [Marilyn] Maxwell check in for a night at a cheap motel decorated with tepees and a neon sign that said SLEEP IN A WIGWAM TONIGHT." And some of the near-death experiences Bob had during World War II were interesting, like Jerry Colonna making brave wisecracks as the plane went down over Alaska.

Friday, December 05, 2014

"Blog"trospective 16: The Twentieth Century

Hey, remember the twentieth century? Man, that was some century. I decided to do a "blog"trospective about it. We're going to see what the history of the twentieth century would look like based on the "blog." And we'll do it by regurgitating every time I have mentioned a particular year in the twentieth century. Why am I doing this? I am avoiding a lot of work I have to do, mainly transcribing the second hour of an interview about cigarette lighters. (Note: I know you won't read this "post"! Why would you? HOW could you? I got so bored by the mid-1930s that I stopped putting it together and started transcribing that interview again.) But enough about me! I give to you the "blog's" twentieth century. 1903: Bob Hope born. At the movies: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. 1908: The founding of the Lauer glove company. 1909: A biography of John Dee published. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Boiled owls referred to as tough. 1911: Notable publications: THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. THE FAIRY-FAITH IN CELTIC COUNTRIES. 1913: The word "pandiculation" is in the dictionary. A barber threatens his customer. 1915: Notable deaths: Scriabin and Gabriel von Max. In the American vernacular: "skeeky." 1916: At the movies: THE SMALL MAGNETIC HAND. Magazine of note: THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER. Other notable publications: LIMEHOUSE NIGHTS. 1917: Some mummies purchased. 1918: Oliver Onions changes his name. 1919: James Reese Europe cuts some tracks. 1922: The jail on Pitcairn Island closes. A man starts hiccuping. 1923: Q-Tips invented. 1924: Musical events: "Sneeze," Gershwin's "operatic parody." 1925: Publications: FAIRIES AT WORK. LAW OF SUCCESS.
1926: A saucy photograph torn apart and taped together. 1927: THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY supposedly first appears with the Latin completely translated in an All-English text. 1928: Notable publication: E.C. Segar's Popeye comics. 1929: Notable publication: MAGIC AND MYSTERY IN TIBET. 1931: Gary Cooper poses with a chimpanzee. A woman gets so scared by a movie she never goes back to the movies. Notable publications: THE SCANDAL AND CREDULITIES OF JOHN AUBREY. LO! by Charles Fort. Joan Crawford drinks champagne by the railroad tracks. A reviewer thinks Herbert Hoover's baby fat is cute. 1932: At the movies: BLESSED EVENT. On TV (!): THE TELEVISION GHOST. 1933: At the movies: GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. 1934: Nedra Harrison begins her studies at Emerson College in Boston. 1936: Nedra Harrison concludes her studies at Emerson College in Boston. Notable publications: Mickey Mouse comics. MY TEN YEARS IN A QUANDARY AND HOW THEY GREW by Robert Benchley. At the movies: the full-color Popeye short "Sinbad the Sailor." 1937: Notable publication: ANIMAL TREASURE by Ivan T. Sanderson. At the movies: a short starring Mickey Mouse's dog Pluto. 1938: Walt Disney admits to an interviewer that he once stomped an owl to death. At the movies: BROADWAY MELODY OF 1938. ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES. THE SHINING HOUR. 1939: Nedra Harrison portrays Lady Godiva. Beginning of the consumption of 15 million hot dogs and 15 million hamburgers.
1940: Ending of the consumption of 15 million hot dogs and 15 million hamburgers. Flann O'Brien completes the manuscript of THE THIRD POLICEMAN. 1941: Notable publications: ELECTRIC EEL CALLING. THEY GOT ME COVERED by Bob Hope. 1942: Kerouac attends a Frank Sinatra concert. At the movies: NIGHT MONSTER. 1944: Last person convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1753. Notable publications: NAVAHO WITCHCRAFT. A TIME magazine article about the ventriloquist dummy Effie Klinker. 1945: Notable publications: Archie comics. 1946: Notable publications: Archie comics. POLICE COMICS. A "Red Badge" mystery. 1947: Rhubarb popularly declared to be a fruit. In the world of commerce and entertainment: the Chiquita Banana jingle. 1948: Notable publication: CULINARY ARTS INSTITUTE ENCYCLOPEDIC COOKBOOK. At the movies: RAW DEAL. 1949: At the movies: A Batman serial. Notable publication: a single-volume abridgment of Aubrey's BRIEF LIVES.
1951: Automobiles in production: The Bentley. 1952: On television: THE HERMAN HICKMAN SHOW. UFOs spotted over New Mexico. 1953: a 4/5 quart bottle of Town and Racquet bourbon goes for $3.09 during the Gimbels 3-day liquor sale. Eleanor Roosevelt moves to 62nd Street. At the movies: THE CLOWN. Notable publication: MILTON CROSS'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC. 1954: Filming of MOBY-DICK in Youghal, Ireland. 1955: Aliens speak with a Missouri farmer. Notable publications: HAVE TUX, WILL TRAVEL by Bob Hope. THE JOKER IS WILD by Joe E. Lewis. THE COMPLETE BOOK OF CHEESE. 1956: At the movies: BUNDLE OF JOY. U.F.O. 1957: Pilot ordered to shoot down a UFO. Automobiles in production: Ford Fairlane 500. 1958: At the movies: THE RETURN OF DRACULA. RALLY 'ROUND THE FLAG, BOYS! Eleanor Roosevelt moves away. 1959: A snotty article about Kerouac in LIFE magazine. Chimp stolen from the St. Louis Zoo. At the movies: THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON. LI'L ABNER. THE GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA. SANTA CLAUS. Notable publications: THE LORE AND LANGUAGE OF SCHOOLCHILDREN, EARLY HAVOC. 1960: At the movies: WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER. 1961: JFK's fallout shelter constructed on Peanut Island. At the movies: THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. 1962: Birth of a man who owns monkeys and dogs. Death of Faulkner. Destruction of a haunted church. 1963: Bicycle safety video. Jerry Lewis talk show. Max Goodman begins his career at WKRG. Lee Harvey Oswald gives a lecture on communism in Mobile, Alabama. Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapped. At the movies: THE HAUNTING. 1964: Margaret Best tucked into bed by a ghost. Notable Publications: THE FAR SIDE OF THE DOLLAR. FACTS ABOUT THE PRESIDENTS FROM WASHINGTON TO JOHNSON. 1965: Newspapers erroneously report that James Brown wants to turn himself into a woman. Notable publication: MYSTERY IN SPACE. On television: JEOPARDY! At the movies: POP GEAR. 1966: Death of Ed Wynn. Charles Portis writes for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. The Doom Patrol teams up with The Flash. Notable music: Porter Wagoner's "The Cold Hard Facts of Life." Notable publication: DARKER THAN AMBER. At the movies: WAY... WAY OUT. DJANGO. On television: OPRY ALMANAC. 1967: THE THIRD POLICEMAN finally published (see 1940). Other notable publications: LETTERS TO THE AIR FORCE ON UFOS. TALES TO ASTONISH. At the movies: WOMAN TIMES SEVEN. CASINO ROYALE. WHO'S MINDING THE MINT? 1968: Elvis Presley's famous comeback special. Elizabeth's mother goes to the prom. Art Garfunkel begins keeping a list of every book he reads. The normally goofy Metal Men start going dark. Notable publication: Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics version). 1969: Bob Hope an occasional Nixon surrogate. Art Garfunkel reads WUTHERING HEIGHTS. The moon landing. cancellation of THE BIG VALLEY. Mickey Mouse used as a verb. At the movies, all H's: HAMLET. THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR. HOOK, LINE AND SINKER. 1970: Jack Palance sings. Tipsy diners in restaurants. The Hulk battles campus protestors. Coincidentally, Bob Hope organizes "Honor America Day," which he plugs when Jerry Lewis hosts THE TONIGHT SHOW.
1971: And yet the youth will have their say with Hair Bear Bunch lunch boxes. Butter and sugar sandwiches. Wadada Leo Smith. At the movies: COLD TURKEY. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. 1972: A ghost at West Point. Messiaen hears an owl at Bryce Canyon. On television: GARGOYLES. THE NIGHT STALKER. At the movies: DRACULA A.D. 1972. THE BISCUIT EATER. X, Y & ZEE. Notable publication: 2010: LIVING IN THE FUTURE. 1973: Professor Irwin Corey visits the Acropolis. Bob Hope visits the University of Mississippi. Roy Blount Jr. visits Pittsburgh. At the movies: CANNIBAL GIRLS. BREEZY. THE THREE MUSKETEERS. 1974: Autobiographies of Colonel Sanders and Jeb Magruder. Other notable publications include a facsimile of Edward Kelley's seances with John Dee and WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION. Nixon's sound check. Bruce Springsteen bootlegs. At the movies: THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH. 1975: A TV movie about syphilis. Superman comic books. Gary Giddins badmouths Sammy Davis Jr. American Top 40. 1976: Robert Shaw co-hosts the Oscars. A teenager goes to somebody's apartment and eats a hot dog. At the movies: CAR WASH. HARRY AND WALTER GO TO NEW YORK. GABLE AND LOMBARD. On television: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special.
1977: On television: The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. At the movies: FUN WITH DICK AND JANE. SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. ROLLERCOASTER. HOUSE. Death of Chaplin. Notable publication: THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS. 1979: Adrienne Barbeau weds John Carpenter. Lincoln Center tribute to Bob Hope. Bob Hope visits China. At the movies: PROPHECY. Was considered "the present" at one time. 1980: Edith Head designs a jogging suit. Norman Mailer is married twice in four days. Elvis Costello makes a TV commercial. A sitcom based on SEMI-TOUGH. 1981: Paul Schrader pouts about THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR. Michael Palin keeps a diary. At the movies: CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives the primary definition of gopher as "a land dwelling tortoise." 1982: A conspiracy theorist is arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Charlie Callas's final TONIGHT SHOW appearance. At the movies: SWAMP THING. AUTHOR! AUTHOR! 1983: UFOs in the woods off Whangtown road. On television: COCAINE: ONE MAN'S SEDUCTION. STARFLIGHT: THE PLANE THAT COULDN'T LAND. Phil Donahue does a show on sadomasochism. TBS airs BOEING, BOEING. CRACKING UP appears on Jonathan Rosenbaum's annual list of best films. Richard Nixon asks Robert Altman for a VHS of NASHVILLE. 1984: At the movies: DUNE. 1985: At the movies: RED SONJA and THE NAKED FACE. In music: "Sisters are Doing It for Themselves." The future creator of VERONICA MARS has a mullet. Max Goodman ends his career at WKRG. 1986: A Cutlass Supreme is named after Julie London. Dr. Harold Wallman's RV catches fire, destroying a human skeleton he owns. 1987: Death of Ted Owens, author of HOW TO CONTACT SPACE PEOPLE. At the movies: MALONE. 1988: I get fired. An aged Jim Backus still broods over a slight by his parents. Nedra Harrison retires.
1989: I am skinny. An owl gets a hologram face. On television: "Bob Hope's Christmas in Hawaii." At the movies: PHYSICAL EVIDENCE. 1990: A man stops hiccuping after 68 years. A band I am in travels to Jackson, Mississippi. 1992: I visit Milwaukee and the stage collapses. In the news: Johnny Carson trivia. 1993: I accidentally drop my copy of a John Cheever novel into an airport toilet. At the movies: ANOTHER STAKEOUT, STRIKING DISTANCE and THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET. In music: "Blue and Far" (live). Notable publication: Leonard Maltin's Film and Video Guide. 1994: The Olsen Twins make a music video about being detectives. A Foster Brooks robot at the MGM Grand. Ward McCarthy and I attend an Elvis impersonator convention. At the movies: LITTLE WOMEN, THE FLINSTONES, and MIXED NUTS. 1995: Death of Grady Sutton. Home movies of the Foster Brooks robot. At the movies: FUNNY BONES. Notable publication: THE OXFORD COMPANION TO PHILOSOPHY. 1996: I buy a used book. An executive quits his job and blasts "Everybody Hurts" out of giant speakers. 1997: We sing a sea chantey. Notable publication: UNDERWORLD by Don DeLillo. 1999: Buffy Summers graduates from high school. Some guy sends his Bob Hope action figure on a trip around the world. I read HANNIBAL on an airplane. I terrify Marvin Hamlisch in an elevator. I meet either Francis Ford Coppola or a guy with a similar beard.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

An Angry Jack Skirball

As I read this Bob Hope biography by Richard Zoglin I keep considering which of my friends would like different parts of it. Like, I know McNeil would love it when success goes to Bob's head and he has long meetings with his writers and never provides snacks. He'll send out a writer with some spare change to pick up a pineapple sundae and eat the whole sundae in front of them and the writers get nothing. Ha ha! And then when it's time to pay them he stands at the top of the stairs and folds their checks into paper airplanes and sails them down, and the writers scramble pathetically after their money. In fact, I just emailed McNeil about all this but why should he be the only one to enjoy it? And I know Megan Abbott would like Bob's swank penthouse in early-30s Manhattan and the time Bob was in a Broadway show with Fanny Brice and Eve Arden and the choreographer was Ballanchine and the sets were designed by Vincent Minnelli, yes! Those were the days. And I know that both McNeil and Megan Abbott would like that Bob first danced with Dolores at a place called the Ha Ha Club and then they split a sandwich. But as for me, I just like the random phrase "an angry Jack Skirball, head of Educational Pictures." There's really nothing else about him in the book, but can't you just picture him, "an angry Jack Skirball, head of Educational Pictures"? Skirball! And I suppose I should mention by way of a disappointing correction that most people seem to think it was undiagnosed tuberculosis that killed Bob's first vaudeville partner. But Bob always insisted it was the bad diner food and became very paranoid for the rest of his career and even in his early struggling days would seek out a nice tearoom on the road.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Underneath a Piano Sucking Lollipops

More from Zoglin: When Bob Hope got a new dance/comedy partner they modeled themselves on "the vaudeville team of Duffy and Sweeney, a comedy duo known for... taking out a frying pan and making eggs onstage... or lying underneath a piano sucking lollipops." I guess you had to be there. Or maybe it was like a 1920s Andy Kaufman kind of thing.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A Bad Piece of Pie

Bob Hope's first vaudeville partner died from eating "a bad piece of coconut cream pie" in a restaurant in West Virginia! Don't worry, I am going to tell you everything I learn from this new Bob Hope biography by Richard Zoglin.

Psychic Dog Powers

Well, Mom was just here and we were flipping around these TV channels and Mom was like, "Let's watch some of this dog show" and I was like, "Okay." So they trotted out all the dogs competing in a certain category and Mom was immediately like, "Oh, that one's going to win." And she was right! And then they trotted out a second set of dogs and before they even did anything Mom was like, "Well, obviously THAT one is going to win." And she was right again! And I was like, "Wow, Mom!" And Mom started laughing because she had seen this dog show before and she made me watch half an hour of a dog show just to trick me into thinking she had psychic dog powers.

Bob's In Reform School

I'm on page 43 of that Bob Hope biography. Bob's in reform school!